What to do when you wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep

What to do when you wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep

You glance out of your window, expecting to see the sun peak out from behind clouds only to realise it’s still the middle of the night; now you’re awake, and with an 8am start, you need to get back to sleep.


Here are a few science - backed things you can try to return to the land of sleep:

1. Meditate

According to dreams, if you haven’t managed to go back to sleep for a few minutes, try using relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises or meditation. There are lots of apps available online that offer guided meditation specifically to aid in sleep.

2. Submerge your head in cold water.

According to Huffington Post, if you’re having trouble going to sleep, submerge your face - making sure to including the area below your eyes and above your cheekbones. Hold your breath for 30 seconds before coming up for air.

Doing this kick-starts an involuntary response called the mammalian diving reflex, which slows down your heart to encourage your body to calm down.

3. The 4-7-8 exercise

The following exercise, pioneered by author Dr Andrew Weil allows more oxygen to flow through the bloodstream.

  • Place the tip of your tongue on the tissue ridge on your upper front teeth and keep it there for the remainder of the exercise.

  • Then exhale through your mouth, making a "whoosh" sound as you do.
  • Follow this by closing your mouth and slowly breath in through your nose and count to four.
  • Next, you'll need to hold your breath for the count of seven.
  • Exhale for the count of eight and make the same "whoosh" sound that you did in step two.
  • Then repeat this exact cycle three more times.

4. Have sex

When people have sex and orgasm, the “love hormone” oxytocin is released. This acts in opposition to stress hormones that keep you awake. Also, endorphins are released during sexual activity and works as a natural sedative.

5. Avoid harsh light

One of the worst things for sleep is bright light; it can suppress levels of the hormone melatonin, which controls your sleep cycle.

If you want to pop to the loo, keep lights dim and if you often suffer from insomnia, you might want to invest in a dimmer switch.

6. Eat something (maybe)

Ok, so this one is a little contentious.

According to some studies, waking up in the middle of the night could be the result of low blood sugar levels, called hypoglycaemia.

If you decide to eat, stick to a low calorie carb snack and if you often find yourself with low blood sugar, get it checked out by the doctor.

Eating often in the middle of the night could mean your body will see food as a reward, and wake up itself up at night to get it.

7. Acupressure

Pressing certain points on the body have been proven to aid with sleep. The acupressure points you can try are outside your heel and below your anklebone; according to, these are called Calm Sleep and pressing these points together by:

placing your thumb on one side and your fingertips on the other side of your ankle

Could relieve pain aches from the waist down and aid inn sleep.

8. Get out of bed and walk around

If you haven’t gone to sleep for 20 minutes, says sleep specialist Dr Harneet Walia, it’s best to get out of bed.

Don’t spend time in bed trying to fall asleep. You probably will start worrying about falling asleep and then learn to associate the bedroom with not sleeping well.

Instead, do something boring until your bed relaxes.

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